Saturday, August 2, 2008

Saturday August 2, 2008

Filed under: General,Geometry — m759 @ 6:23 AM

There is an article in today’s Telegraph on mathematician Simon Phillips Norton– co-author, with John Horton Conway, of the rather famous paper “Monstrous Moonshine” (Bull. London Math. Soc. 11, 308–339, 1979).
“Simon studies one of the most complicated groups of all: the Monster. He is, still, the world expert on it ….

Simon tells me he has a quasi-religious faith in the Monster. One day, he says, … the Monster will expose the structure of the universe.

… although Simon says he is keen for me to write a book about him and his work on the Monster and his obsession with buses, he doesn’t like talking, has no sense of anecdotes or extended conversation, and can’t remember (or never paid any attention to) 90 per cent of the things I want him to tell me about in his past. It is not modesty. Simon is not modest or immodest: he just has no self-curiosity. To Simon, Simon is a collection of disparate facts and no interpretative glue. He is a man without adjectives. His speech is made up almost entirely of short bursts of grunts and nouns.

This is the main reason why we spent three weeks together …. I needed to find a way to make him prattle.”

Those in search of prattle and interpretive glue should consult Anthony Judge’s essay “Potential Psychosocial Significance of Monstrous Moonshine: An Exceptional Form of Symmetry as a Rosetta Stone for Cognitive Frameworks.”  This was cited here in Thursday’s entry “Symmetry in Review.”  (That entry is just a list of items related in part by synchronicity, in part by mathematical content. The list, while meaningful to me and perhaps a few others, is also lacking in prattle and interpretive glue.)

Those in search of knowledge, rather than glue and prattle, should consult Symmetry and the Monster, by Mark Ronan.  If they have a good undergraduate education in mathematics, Terry Gannon‘s survey paper “Monstrous Moonshine: The First Twenty-Five Years” (pdf) and book– Moonshine Beyond the Monster— may also be of interest.

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